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Runner Soh Rui Yong to represent Singapore in SEA Games after more than five-year absence

“It’s exciting to be back,” says Soh Rui Yong, on his return to the Singapore team for the 2023 SEA Games.

Runner Soh Rui Yong to represent Singapore in SEA Games after more than five-year absence

Soh Rui Yong crossing the finish line at the 28th SEA Games marathon event. (File photo: TODAY/Ernest Chua)

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s top runner Soh Rui Yong is back in the national fold after a successful appeal for his inclusion in the 2023 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games squad.

This marks the end of a more than five-year absence from major games for Soh, following several clashes with the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).

SNOC confirmed Soh’s participation in the 2023 SEA Games in a statement on Saturday (Mar 25). He is slated to take part in 5,000m and 10,000m events in Cambodia. 

In January, Soh was not named in SNOC’s initial list of 517 athletes for the SEA Games in May.

In the statement, an SNOC spokesperson said that the 31-year-old's non-selection at the 2019 and 2021 SEA Games was due to his behaviour over the last few years, which SNOC found to be "unacceptable and unbecoming of a national athlete".

Then in April 2022, the council and Singapore Athletics began discussion on a path for Soh to resume his participation in the major games, added the spokesperson.

"Earlier this week, the SNOC Appeals Committee for SEA Games 2023 (chaired by Mr Michael Palmer) met with Soh Rui Yong and is satisfied with the progress he has made so far, and has as such allowed Singapore Athletics’ appeal for Soh Rui Yong’s selection for the 2023 SEA Games, subject to any conditions which may be imposed on his participation by SNOC as SNOC may consider reasonable and appropriate.

"The SNOC hopes he continues to make further progress to repair the damage caused in the past."

Soh, winner of the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games marathon, is the national record holder of the 5,000m, 10,000m, half marathon and marathon events.

In response to CNA's query, he said: "It’s exciting to be back ... I managed to meet the appeals panel in person this time and once we managed to speak in person I believe matters were resolved very quickly.

"I thank them for their time and the opportunity. SNOC is gracious in allowing our appeal and I will endeavour to represent the country well."

With the SEA Games beginning on May 5 - less than six weeks away - he said that the races will be a challenge for him considering the "short runway", although it's one that he is embracing. 

He added that he is looking forward to tapping his experience to contribute to the team, and especially the younger members, as he will be one of the few above 30 years old.

"I am looking forward to hopefully using my experience to benefit my new, up-and-coming and younger teammates," he told CNA938.  

On whether he would return from the games with medals, Soh said he will be focusing on the process, rather than the outcome. 

"Focus on the little things, focus on the process, and the outcome will be the best possible outcome," he added. 

"Whether or not there is a medal or not, you really couldn't have done anything more than your best."


Among the high-profile incidents Soh was involved in was a dispute with team mate Ashley Liew after the 2015 SEA Games marathon event, over the latter's account of events relating to his act of sportsmanship.

This led to a defamation suit by Liew against Soh, which Soh lost and had to pay Liew damages of S$180,000. Soh then appealed and lost that case as well.

During the 2017 SEA Games, Soh had a disagreement with SNOC over its regulations regarding sponsors, which prohibited Team Singapore athletes from using their names for "promotional or advertising purposes" without permission.

But last year, Soh apologised twice - in February and October - to SNOC over his past statements and disagreements with the council. He also stated his wish to "put the past behind" and race for Singapore again.

Soh was also not selected for the 2019 and 2021 SEA Games despite meeting the qualification times for both competitions.

SNOC then left him out of the the 2022 Asian Games, despite his nomination by Singapore Athletics for the men's 10,000m event.

As of Mar 25, a total of 561 athletes will represent Singapore at the Cambodia 2023 SEA Games in 30 sports, said SNOC.

Source: CNA/gr


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